Barking is natural for dogs – it’s one of the ways they communicate. However sometimes they can bark excessively, causing problems. Discover the most common reasons for barking and find out how to keep your dog (and your neighbours) calm.
Identify why your dog is barking
Dogs bark for many different reasons and figuring out why yours is barking is key to solving the problem. These are the most common reasons for excessive barking:
- Asserting their territory – Many dogs will bark when other dogs, animals or people enter their territory. This can be a real problem if you live in a busy neighbourhood.
- Fear/alarm – Loud noises and sudden disruptions can startle your dog, causing them to bark. When their tail is tucked and their ears are back, these are signs that your dog is afraid.
- Loneliness/boredom – When dogs are left alone without the companionship of humans or other dogs, they can get bored and sad. Barking is a way for dogs to alleviate their frustration.
- Attention seeking – Sometimes dogs bark when they want something. This behaviour will be reinforced if you give your dog what they want every time they bark.
- Greeting – Barking is also a way for dogs to tell you they’re happy to see you. However, some dogs can take chattiness to the extreme!
Once you understand the reason why your dog is barking, you can start to tackle the issue.
Desensitise your dog from the stimulus
As always when trying to modify a dog’s behaviour, patience is key. We recommend using treats and praise when they do the right thing, rather than punishing them for bad behaviour. Yelling at your dog won’t stop them from barking, because they’ll think you’re joining in.
Keep in mind that there might be a practical solution for the problem of excessive barking. For instance, if you’re wondering how to stop a dog barking at night, it might be easiest to keep your dog away from the front of the house after dark. This way they won’t be tempted to bark at passers by.
Similarly, there are practical ways you can approach the issue of how to stop a dog barking when left alone. To alleviate boredom, you could try giving your dog something to gnaw on like a dried pig’s ear or a chew toy. Large uncooked bones are also great for when you’ve no choice but to leave your dog alone. Remember to also give your dog plenty of exercise, so they’ll be more inclined to sleep during the day.
If you want to know how to stop a dog barking at other dogs, you can train them to become desensitised to the stimulus. To do this, you can try feeding your dog treats whenever another dog moves into their line of sight, so eventually they come to form positive associations with other dogs.
Train your dog to be quiet
With patience, it’s possible to train your dog to stop barking. Follow these tips to learn how to stop a dog barking for attention:
- Don’t shout – If you yell at your dog while they’re barking, it will make the problem worse.
- Be consistent – Make sure that everyone in your household has been briefed so that nobody rewards the dog when it barks.
- Use positive reinforcement – You should reward your dog with treats and praise for doing the right thing.
It is possible to train your dog to understand the word ‘Quiet!’. One way to do this is to say ‘Quiet’ in a firm voice while your dog is barking, and then when they stop barking, give them a treat. If you’re consistent, this should help your dog to eventually understand what ‘Quiet!’ means.
If you have already trained your dog how to bark on command (‘Speak!’) you can also teach them to be quiet. To do this, ask your dog to ‘Speak!’ and then when they start barking, say ‘Quiet!’ and hold your finger over your lips. When your dog becomes quiet, give them a treat.
Understanding your dog’s needs
While excessive barking can be a frustrating problem, it also presents an opportunity to understand your dog better and forge an even stronger bond. Remember, dogs can get lonely and frustrated, so you need to make sure they get enough exercise and stimulation every day.
It’s possible to learn how to stop a dog barking at people and other dogs, but it takes patience and time. If barking continues to be a problem for your dog, we recommend that you seek the help of a professional dog trainer or your local vet.